Cycling is an incredible fitness activity that offers a range of health benefits.
It improves heart health, strengthens bones, enhances posture, increases muscle strength, lowers stress, and aids in weight management.
But like other fitness activities, cycling causes muscle soreness, stiffness, and pain, especially if you go on a high-intensity ride. Stretching is a great way to relieve sore and stiff muscles and aids in faster recovery.
If you would like to know why stretching for bikers is important and how to do it, read on. We’ll tell you why you should stretch, when to stretch, and list five easy stretches you can do in the comfort of your home.
Why Is Stretching Important?
Despite the many health benefits of cycling, most cyclists know that the activity lacks a bit in the flexibility department. Although cycling involves some degree of flexibility to push the bike forward, our joints never go through their full range of motion.
The limited range of motion that cycling allows means our muscles become stiff and short, losing their flexibility over time.
So, you end up suffering from poor posture and increase your risk of injury while cycling. Poor posture and flexibility reduce your power output and affect your biking performance.
Over time, it causes chronic health issues like lower back pain and hamstring pain that impact even your daily activities in the long run.
Tight muscles also pull on bones and shift the natural alignment of your body, particularly your spine. This increases the risk of pain, discomfort, and injury and affects your quality of life.
This makes it important to do other fitness exercises that promote flexibility and aid recovery. Stretching is one such exercise that promotes mobility and helps cyclists recover better after an intense ride on the road, hills, or gravel.
It helps elongate muscles and tendons and increase their elasticity. It also helps warm up or cool down muscles, joints, and connective tissues.
This gives you an increased range of motion and improves muscle flexibility, aiding recovery and injury prevention.
Stretching relieves muscle soreness, stiffness, and pain and helps you enjoy better posture and improved health. Stretching for bikers also improves their cycling performance and allows them to ride faster and for longer.
When Should You Stretch?
Many cyclists do static stretches that involve holding a ﬁxed position right before heading out on a ride. However, this is not the best time for static stretching.
Before a ride, your muscles are cold, which puts them at higher risk of injury. Also, static stretching decreases power output for about an hour.
So, before a ride, it is best to do dynamic stretching to warm up your muscles and prepare them for a ride. You should move your joints in a way similar to the cycling motion to ease your body into a riding session.
After a ride, do static stretches to help your muscles recover and restore shortened muscles to their normal length.
Best Stretches For Bikers
Here we list some common and easy stretching exercises you can do to improve your flexibility and recovery.
Make sure you do them slowly and maintain control of your movements. Avoid sudden jerking movements and flinging about your body parts, as they only increase the risk of injury.
You should only feel slight resistance and tension – not pain while doing them. If you feel any pain, stop stretching immediately and consult a doctor before you continue your stretching routine.
Here are the best stretching exercises for cyclists:
Warm-Up Dynamic Stretches
Warming up with dynamic stretches before hopping on your bike reduces the risk of injury and improves your biking performance.
Here are three simple warm-ups you can do before a ride:
1. Cat-Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana)
Riding for hours in the saddle in a hunched-over position causes pain and stiffness, especially in the back.
The Cat-Cow Stretch or Chakravakasana warms your back muscles and stretches your spine forward and backward. This helps reduce the middle and lower back stiffness and enables you to ride for longer and faster.
Here are the steps to follow to do the Cat-Cow Stretch:
- To do the cow pose, get down on all fours. Ensure your shoulders are in line with your wrists and your knees are in line with your hips.
- Inhale and arch your back slowly while allowing your stomach to drop toward the floor. At the same time, raise your shoulders and hips and look upward.
- Now do the cat pose. Exhale and round your spine outward while tucking in your tailbone and dropping your head. This is just the opposite motion of the cow pose.
- Repeat this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Chest Stretch
Hunching over your handlebars while riding affects your back and takes a toll on your chest. This chest stretch targets this muscle group and stretches your back and legs.
- Stand on one side of your bike and face it. Your feet must be in line with your hips.
- Hold your bike and bend at the waist to lean forward until your back is parallel to the floor. If you want a narrower grip, hold your bike’s top tube. Hold your bike’s handlebars or saddle if you need a wider grip.
- Bend your elbows slightly and press your chest down toward the floor.
- Hold this position for three seconds and slowly stand up.
- Repeat this stretch five to ten times.
3. High Knees
While cycling, you will end up using the muscles in your hips, hamstrings, and glutes extensively to propel your bike forward. So, you may often suffer from pain and tightness in these regions.
High knees are an easy stretch that works wonders for these muscle groups. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand and bend one knee at a 90-degree angle.
- Raise it as high as you can without causing pain.
- Bring it down and do the same with the second knee.
- Repeat these steps and slowly increase your pace, hopping from one leg to another and lifting one knee at a time as high up as possible.
- Repeat this exercise for 30 to 60 seconds.
Cool-Down Static Stretches
Cool-down static stretches help your body return to its normal state after a long bike ride.
They eliminate metabolic waste from your muscles, redistribute the blood in your body, lower your heart rate slowly, and help you relax mentally. They also prepare you for your next ride.
Here are two static stretches you can incorporate into your cool-down routine:
1. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Our shoulders, chest, back, and abs often become sore and stiff after a long and intense riding session.
Bhujangasana, or the cobra pose, is one of the most famous yoga poses that address tension in these muscle groups. It helps stretch and open up these muscles and relieves stiffness and pain.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Lie down on your stomach and keep your legs apart at hip width.
- Point your toes and place your hands right under your shoulders with your fingers pointing forward.
- Pull your arms into your chest.
- Press into your hands and push your elbows into your torso while raising your head, shoulders, and chest.
- Raise your torso slightly, halfway, or fully up without causing pain. Drop your head back and keep your elbows slightly bent.
- Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Repeat a couple of times.
2. Standing Quad Stretch
Our quads also need to cool down after an intense ride. The standing quad stretch relieves our quads, ankles, and hip flexors.
It prevents back pain. A good set of quad stretches should be a part of every biker’s post-ride cool-down routine.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Stand with your legs apart at hip width.
- Lift your left leg and bring it back toward your butt while holding your left shin or foot with your left hand. If you feel you’ll lose balance, use a chair or wall for stability.
- Press your thighs together and point your left knee down. Ensure your knee does not point to the side and your back does not arch.
- Remain in this position for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
- Repeat this stretch one to five times on both sides.
Stretching for bikers is key to muscle recovery, injury prevention, and better biking performance. It helps you enjoy improved posture and coordination and reduces muscle soreness and pain.
For improved physical fitness and overall health, we recommend doing the warm-up and cool-down stretches listed above.
If you found our article helpful and informative, check out our website for more interesting guides and blog posts. Happy biking!
Last Updated on June 20, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic